A DEMOCRAT-turned-Republican who ran a credible but losing race for sheriff in 2007 is now lobbying to be nominated for the job if the state Senate rejects acting Sheriff Barbara Deeley.

Michael Untermeyer, a former city and state prosecutor who works in real-estate law and development, wants Gov.-elect Tom Corbett to nominate him as sheriff. Corbett will be sworn into office Tuesday.

"If I had the opportunity, I would embrace it," Untermeyer said.

Deeley's last-minute nomination by Gov. Rendell to replace Sheriff John Green is in serious trouble. Green stepped down Dec. 31 with a year to go in his sixth term. Republicans in the Senate say the new governor should make his own pick, especially since the Sheriff's Office is the focus of claims about financial mismanagement.

Untermeyer says he spoke during his 2007 campaign as a Democrat about many of the financial problems now being scrutinized at the office. He switched parties in 2009 to run as a Republican for district attorney, losing to Seth Williams.

Untermeyer met this week with Michael Meehan, general counsel of the Republican City Committee, and with Vahan Gureghian, a big-money backer of the Montgomery County Republican Party who is serving on Corbett's transition team.

Meehan doubts that the new governor can replace Democrats like Green and Deeley with a Republican like Untermeyer.

"I know an uproar would occur if Gov.-elect Corbett nominated a Republican," Meehan said. "I'm not even sure if you picked a Republican that everyone sees as a reformer it would be acceptable."

Gureghian, through a spokesman, confirmed that he held a "cordial wide-ranging conversation" over lunch with Untermeyer but made no commitment to support him for any office.

Corbett's transition team, which has been ducking most media calls, did not respond to requests for comment.

Untermeyer, who is running in the crowded Republican field for City Council at large, spoke Monday of wanting the sheriff's job during a 30th Ward candidate forum. Al Taubenberger, another at-large candidate, magnanimously urged Untermeyer to go for it.

"He's very much interested in the position," Taubenberger told us later. "I said he would make a fine sheriff."

The Featherman effect

Let's face it: This is a tough town in which to wage a campaign for mayor as a Republican.

Democrats hold a 6-to-1 advantage in voter registration. The local GOP has less than $3,000 in the bank, according to campaign-finance reports. And some Republicans say their party has been co-opted into a subsidiary of Democratic City Committee.

But John Featherman, a real-estate agent and 5th Ward GOP committeeman, declared his candidacy way back in June.

Featherman's candidacy seems as much targeted at local GOP leaders as it is Mayor Nutter.

Has Featherman managed to box in those GOP leaders? A general-election run for mayor as a Republican is tough enough. Who wants a primary fight with a guy itching to make a high-profile point about the party leaders?

"This was such a strategic move; he didn't even realize what he did," said Mike Cibik, Featherman's ward leader. "I think John's a bright guy. A little quirky, but he'll know the issues."

Featherman has run unsuccessfully since 1998 for Clerk of Quarter Sessions, the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House.

Al Schmidt, a former senior adviser to the state Republican Party now running for City Commission, said Meehan and local party chairman Vito Canuso will have trouble recruiting a "straw man" to run for mayor with Featherman in the race.

"Featherman is a clever guy," Schmidt said. "There is a method to his madness."

Meehan and Canuso reject this thinking. Canuso said no potential candidate has expressed concern about Featherman. Meehan sees a potential upside.

"Maybe a primary challenge would be good," he said. "Maybe the newspapers would pay attention to a Republican in the primary when they're raising issues about the city."

Canuso said Rick Hellberg, a financial adviser, is considering a run for mayor. Hellberg, who was soundly defeated last year in a challenge to U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, did not respond to our requests for comment.

Any Republican who can get past the Featherman effect will then have to face the Knox factor.

Millionaire Tom Knox, who finished second in the 2007 Democratic primary for mayor behind Nutter, is preparing for an independent run for mayor in the general election. That will allow Knox to court Republican and independent voters, potentially pulling that support away from the Republican nominee.

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